Kimmi Wernli is the first female president in one of the oldest natural food companies in the nation, Krema and Crazy Richard’s Peanut Butter Company. She is a wife and a mother of four kids, two girls and twin boys. Health and nutrition is in her blood even though her veins are actually full of peanut butter.
In this episode you’ll learn:
- How to use social media to educate your customer
- How Kimmi would start a food company right now
- How to launch a new product
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Tell us a little bit about you, Kimmi Wernli, and what you do.
We actually own two different lines of peanut butter. They are the same, but have different labels. It is very confusing to the consumers, but we didn’t realize it when we purchased the two different lines years ago because there was no internet. People were not really educated about their food and where it came from. For us, having two different labels and different groceries stores with the exact same products inside really wasn’t a big deal. However, today, with the internet and education, people are wanting to know where their food comes from. We have this hurdle that we are trying to overcome, like telling the world and all our consumers that we are the same company and that they get the same guarantee, 100% peanuts, no added fillers, safety guarantee. Whether it’s Krema or Crazy Richards, it’s the same peanut butter.
Will you share the backstory of the company and how your family and you got into this business?
Krema peanut butter company was established in 1898. They had a stand-alone location and went through two different owners. They basically sold nuts and candies, roasted their own peanuts. and made their peanut butter in a small factory. That was the company that my father purchased. My parents and I were living overseas. My father worked in a big bank and when I was six years old, he decided that he wanted to be his own boss. He was tired of the corporate world and wanted to live in America and raise his family there. My mother and father took all of their savings and bought this very small natural peanut butter company. Everyone thought they were crazy because no one was eating natural food and none of their friends had heard about natural peanut butter before.
I spent my evenings, weekends and holidays running around this little peanut butter factory and I learned how to do every job in that warehouse. It was a very small location but we had to answer phones, make sales, and as a child, I would help on the production line as much as I could. We then bought the Crazy Richard’s peanut butter company and started expanding from there. Crazy Richard’s was founded by Richard Marcus.
We are merging the two and are trying to bring a clutter-free peanut butter to everyone – a peanut butter with just peanuts. We do have a national distribution now.
You are the first person I’m interviewing who has had a company around a very long time and who has had distribution for years. I would love to hear your advice to companies who are just starting.
That is a great question. That would make me reflect on the many conversations that I have had with other business owners who have a large social media presence and maybe a good online store, but have no distribution on real grocery stores or just have minimal. We have a large distribution in grocery stores, but have a small presence on social media. Every single one of these entrepreneurs that I have talked to would trade places with me in a heartbeat. I view that as very telling and having this distribution nationwide makes it easier to sell online.
First, having a distribution that is outside on your online store makes your product valid. Second, it makes it more accessible to your consumers. There are still plenty of consumers out there that don’t want to order a product online. Having your product into a store should be a very important goal.
What are 4-5 things that one should have in a row before hitting distribution?
The first thing you need to have is a vision or a mission statement. You have to have a goal. If you don’t know where you are going and what you are working for, you will never going to get there. You have to have a clear idea. You don’t have to have the exact right numbers or orders, but you have to have an idea and a goal. It must be something that you are really working toward, something that bigger than just yourself. Once you have that in place, it will be easier to say yes or no to an idea. If you have that overwhelming great goals and vision statements, then you can tailor all of your choices. “Am I spending my money on this? Does it meet the overarching goal? Does it support that major house?”
Once you have that established, you need to make sure that your product is sound. It needs to meet a consumer demand. If you were just coming up for another flavor of a product or something that is innovative, then it’s not going to sell so well. It has to be unique in the consumer industry. Do a little bit of research to find out who your target audience is, then you will know to whom you are marketing to. That will really help you figure out if you are going to be focused on GNCs of the world or the mom and pop shops.
You need capital to start. I don’t know if this is something you have saved up or something from an investor, but the important thing is, you have some money that you can put into doing your company or purchasing your product. Distribution will come quickly if you could get into the store and start selling and be able to fill their orders. Look ahead and make sure that you have a backup plan. Making sure that you can meet your demand must be the goal of an entrepreneur. If you’ve got demand, make sure you can fulfill it. This is just all a balancing act at all times.
Can you share about your other products? How did you develop and launch them?
We sell creamy and crunchy peanut butter. We also sell almond butter and cashew butter. Just recently last year, we launched a powdered peanut butter. We were excited because our powdered peanut butter is 100% peanuts instead of having a bunch of added sugar and salts. We felt like we were bringing something that was clean and pure, exactly what somebody would want in a powdered peanut butter. We developed a peanut butter with an added vitamin blend. That was something that has not been replicated until to this day. We decided we didn’t want to do a flavored peanut butter because we don’t do flavors. We wanted to do something functional, and the function was the blend of vitamins.
We spent a lot of time last year at a fitness expos, trying to distribute to the fitness industry. However, we found that the fitness industry is very tough to crack. There was a lot of saturation in the fitness industry and there’s so many types of protein powders that are currently available. Our products are very much suited to the grocery stores, and we have realized that is where we should be spending our time with and so, we are continuing those PB plus and OB burst because we still make sell of those products. We realized a lot of our consumers are on the go all the time and they need some healthy food that is convenient where they can take with them on the go and is TSA approved size.
I really love how you said that you couldn’t crack the fitness industry and you realized that when you started this second line. You thought your avatar was one person but you realized it was another. It is okay to pivot or to change and adapt to new products when it doesn’t go how you thought it would.
That is a really good point. I didn’t even take my own advice. We didn’t do a lot of research before we came up with these products and started thinking immediately that we were really marketing towards fitness industry. We just thought it was a great idea, and we had no idea about the realm of saturation in the fitness industry and the amount of competition.
Is there any lesson that you have taken to heart that you will use in the next time you launch a completely new product?
I think we will probably do a case study. We have one product in mind that we are working on now, and we could produce just a smaller amount of that product and see how that goes. We did produce a ton of our previous product and we ended up having to change the labels and the tear packaging. A case study may help us gauge where our sales are going to come from, who is our consumer, and how are we serving them.
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Kimmi is the first female president of one of the oldest natural food companies in the nation. She grew up surrounded by nuts and is now the owner of their family business: Crazy Richard’s Peanut Butter Company. She is a peanut butter addict, fitness enthusiast and lover of healthy foods and nutrition. She married an awesome man (who is ironically allergic to nuts) and they have four children. Kimmi is proud of her company’s long legacy of honesty from their business policies to their clean products. Every jar of peanut butter has just ONE ingredient – peanuts! She is on a mission to encourage peanut butter lovers everywhere to make a simple change in their family’s pantry and try Crazy Richard’s #ClutterFreePB.